Who I Am Not - BFI Flare
Mar 21, 2023
Sharon-Rose Khumalo and Dimakatso Sebidi
Sharon-Rose Khumalo and Dimakatso Sebidi
The outstanding centrepiece film for BFI Flare, Who I Am Not is an intimate look into the lives of two intersex South Africans and the challenges they face within sex and gender binaries. Working in collaboration with director Tünde Skovrán, beauty queen Sharon-Rose Khumalo and intersex rights activist Dimakatso Sebidi take the viewer on a journey through the medical, societal and their personal challenges as intersex people. This is a deeply emotive film and should be celebrated for its candour into the lives of two individuals seeking to accept themselves despite societal definitions and celebrates authentic difference.
‘Intersex’ is an umbrella term for a diversity of identities and commonly refers to a person born with a combination of male and female biological traits. The documentary posits that at least 150 million people worldwide identify as intersex and do so in different ways, as whilst Sharon-Rose Khumalo is female-presenting and identifies as a woman, Dimatatso Sebidi is still on their own journey of self-discovery and uses they/them pronouns. Khumalo takes the viewer through these definitions, along with real life conversations that she and Sebidi have on camera with partners, doctors, first dates and potential employers. Struggling with familial issues, not being able to have biological children and looking for suitable employment that is accepting are just some of the daily issues that they both handle. There are plenty of uncomfortable and upsetting moments on camera, as their identities are interrogated or misunderstood, but ultimately these two individuals seek to focus on the honesty and integrity of these moments as they wish to educate a wide audience on what it means to be an intersex person.
This film is vibrantly unique and does not adopt a traditional documentary format. Tünde Skovrán’s direction is artistic and arguably experimental in feel, as the camera lingers on bodies and aesthetics to tell two different stories that share a common thread. Likewise, water and cleaning are heavily utilised images throughout the film as if to point to ideas of cleansing or rebirth. Whilst Khumalo and Sebidi have different gender expressions and understandings of their own identities as intersex people, they work together very naturally in this documentary and support each other through each of their experiences. Likewise, their raw and deeply personal interactions with family members and friends are filmed, which are sensitive and incredibly moving moments that the viewer is permitted to watch. For them to raise awareness in this format is mind-blowing and wonderful, as worldwide audiences will benefit so much from the openness of these discussions and the beautiful images that accompany them.
Who I Am Not is not only bold in its stylistic choices, but also interrogates what it means to self-define one’s identity from multiple perspectives. Khumalo and Sebidi are provided with a safe space on screen to explore their own communities within the context of their intersex identities which makes for some compelling viewing. Likewise, they raise questions of faith and religion and what they understand “God’s image” to mean in a climate where they are viewed as ‘atypical’. The filmmakers have done a fantastic job at creating a film that expertly raises awareness of intersex life and the hardships that may come within that, but also in allowing Khumalo and Sebidi to maintain their own agency and tell their own stories. It makes the film more remarkable and captivating, but also educational about intersex identity, as a result.
What BFI Flare has so expertly handled this year is an incredible selection of films with an overarching theme of self-acceptance and a willingness to share personal struggle. Who I Am Not is also compelling in this way as those within the film are unashamed to question the society that governs them. It is a beautifully crafted documentary dedicated to all intersex people and is not a film to be missed.
Who I Am Not will receive its UK premiere as the BFI Flare centrepiece screening on Tuesday 21st March 2023. To find out more about this, or the other films featured at BFI Flare 2023, see the BFI website or read more of our BFI Flare coverage at www.ukfilmreview.co.uk